Day 2 – March 26
Katy and I woke up for our FDP going to a school for blind children. When we arrived at the school, the school principal gave us a short background and explanation of the school. They did not have an interpreter ready for us, but luckily our trip leader, who is an RD on the ship, speaks Vietnamese, since her family is from Vietnam, and she was able to translate for a little while before the translator showed up. The school was the first school for the blind in Vietnam. They have three locations and are a tuition-free, government school. About 350 children from ages 3-22 learn in classes from Pre-K to high school and vocational classes. The school not only has blind children, but it also disabled children. In fact, they were the first school in the country to accept disabled children into their school. Although it’s great they accept different students, the disabled children are in the same classes as the blind children. As a child of an educator, and as someone with some experience with children with disabilities, it was hard to see the mixing of these two significantly different disabilities. We walked around and visited several of the classrooms. In each class I felt as if the children were being put on display for us. We had brought items for the children, but most of it was hygienic items that had been donated to the ship donation boxes by students. The teacher asked us to pass the items out to the children ourselves, but the few toys we had were stickers that the students obviously couldn’t see. After going around to different classrooms, we were given a music presentation by one of the professors. He was blind and had attended the school as a child. Then we went to their printing room where all of their books and homework pages were made. There is no mass printing of Braille books in Vietnam so the school has to do all of their own printing. We also got to watch gym class, which was just a few minutes of jumping motions and such. It was amazing to see how well the kids got around the school helping each other and making lines to line up to go back to class. It was all very interesting to watch but we did not interact with the children very much. We went back to the Pre-K class, the class we had visited first, and interacted with the students a little more. Then we had a final meeting with the principal and asked any questions and then we headed back to the ship.
Once we got back, Katy and I went to head out for the markets and walk around the city and another girl, Meagan, joined us. We had lunch on the ship, because it was pizza day and there has never been pizza besides the pizza you can buy upstairs at the pool bar, so we were pretty excited for that. Then we got on the shuttle for the hotel and walked to the post office, which was actually this huge building that looked like the inside of a big train station. After walking around to a few stations, we finally figured out how to get international postage. We walked by the cathedral but couldn’t go in because it was closed from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. We were all thirsty because it was pretty hot out, so we decided to stop at a café. Right across the street was a Coffee Bean! It was funny to see that all the way in Vietnam, and not a Starbucks. Next we headed to the market for more fabric because we wanted to get more clothes made at the tailor we went to the day before. I was much less exhausted and overwhelmed so I ended up finding a bunch of different fabrics I liked. After the fabric, we headed back to the tailor’s, Orchids, and got 3 shirts and a skirt made. Later that night we walked back through the town all the way to the ship. We ended up having dinner at a Japanese restaurant right outside the port gate.